“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” ― Henry David Thoreau
I’m sure that like me, you are frustrated by the amount of articles, posts and voices that are pushing you to set your goals for the year.
The reality is that all living things have within them a goal-striving mechanism to help in achieving their goals. It is something intrinsic and a great gift given to us to do and be more.
Animals have one goal: to survive and live, and that often involves finding food, shelter, procreating, and overcoming hazards. The squirrel goes about its goal to store nuts during the fall for the upcoming winter without much procrastination. Birds navigate thousands of miles of flying without a Global Positioning System (GPS) to arrive at their destination.
On the other hand, with humans, the goal to live means more than just mere survival as we have emotional and spiritual needs that drive us to achieve greater goals–ultimately in living fuller lives.
We are co-creators and have within us creative imagination with an instinct for success in attaining the goals. This could mean writing poetry, creating the latest app, climbing Mount Everest, inventing a machine, or attaining inner peace.
Goals are not only necessary for us to survive and live, but also to blossom and live great lives. We tend to default to comfort and rarely want to leave that space and as such live average lives instead of extraordinary ones we were supposed to live.
In early January 2013, I broke my hand in kickboxing, and I couldn’t go to the gym for a while. I put on a few pounds and was getting hysterical, so I decided to start running. I had no training, and the last time I ran, I was in college. I immediately set a goal of running a half-marathon within 6 months. I did all my research, read all the books, and created a plan.
I followed the plan religiously, often getting up at 4 a.m. and I couldn’t sleep from the pain in my knees for many nights. I persevered and succeeded in completing the run in a decent time for my 45-year-old body.
However, what I gained from the whole experience was not only the thrill of completing my goal, but also the feeling it gave me as a changed man. It made me more confident, stronger willed and left me with a new healthier way of life with running at its core.
However, as with everything we do, we humans tend to over-complicate matters, and goal-setting becomes a concept that takes too much time from the actual process of doing and engaging in life.
Here is a list of Do’s and Don’ts in setting goals:
1. Do make your goals specific.
This is to distinguish them from a mere wish.
E.g. I want to be rich is not a goal but a mere wish but I want to make two million dollars in three years at the stock market is a goal.
2. Do make them measurable.
This is to track your progress and see what adjustments you need to make.
E.g. I want to run 30km this week, and I have only done 20km and it’s the 5th day of the week. I have choices on what to do for the last two days.
3. Do let them push you.
Goals push us out of our comfort zones, helping us with new experiences and challenges that make us bigger people. However, you have to make them also attainable, so they don’t dishearten you.
E.g. If you make $100K a year, then an attainable goal which would also push you, would be to make $300K a year, and not three million a year.
4. Do make them relevant to you.
We often get caught up with what society tells us, or what our friends & family are doing. We end up setting goals that are not for us just so that we belong to our group.
E.g. A few years back, I set myself a goal of trying Para-gliding as a lot of my friends were doing it. I did do it and spend so much time, and money in getting there and I hated it from the first second I got airborne until I landed dazed and confused.
5. Do set a deadline.
There is a kind of magic that happens when we see a looming date coming up. It starts a chain of thoughts and events that energize you towards the goal.
E.g. I will run The New York marathon on Sunday 1st November 2015, and not, I want to run a marathon next year.
6. Don’t over-complicate & overwhelm.
We often set too many goals, and as such, we get stressed and overwhelmed and give up not only on the goal, but also on the actual process.
E.g. Failing a strict diet would make you give up not only on the diet but on healthy eating.
7. Don’t feel guilty.
We often feel very guilty and let down when we don’t achieve a goal and it somehow permeates into other areas of our lives and puts us in a bad state of mind.
E.g. I missed a long Sunday run a few months ago, and I spent the whole day crying about it until my young daughter screamed at me to get a grip of myself.
8. Don’t forget that it’s the process that we really love.
We lose sight of the ‘why‘ of our goal; we totally forget why we started the goal in the first place and what motivated us to do it. Goals become chores and lose their essence as we forget that we loved that process before setting the goal.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ― Ernest Hemingway
9. Don’t forget to celebrate.
This is often overlooked but it’s important to celebrate your wins and recognize your achievements. It all fills your self-esteem container and reinforces your win into your psyche.
At the end of the day, goals are simply a way to ask yourself if what you are doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow.
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